Three reasons why Man United need to sign centre-half
Owen Fulda examines why Manchester United need to improve their defence as soon as possible
1) The injury to Luke Shaw
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal will have to shuffle his defensive line-up in the wake of the sickening injury Luke Shaw suffered in Tuesday night’s 2-1 defeat away by PSV Eindhoven. Both Marcos Rojo and utility man Daley Blind are comfortable playing at left-back, but any more injuries in defensive positions will leave United in a precarious position. Although the transfer window is not firmly closed, Premier League clubs still have the opportunity to sign unattached players and register them to play. In light of the number of games United will have to play in the run-up to Christmas, it would perhaps be wise to strongly consider this option. Dutch international and former Aston Villa captain Ron Vlaar is available, having declined Villa’s contract offer at the end of last season. With 31 caps for the Netherlands to his name and plenty of top-flight experience to rely on, Vlaar would be a reliable centre-back for the Red Devils should he be called upon.
2) Phil Jones has under-performed
Having been sidelined for the first month of the season since club doctors discovered he was suffering from thrombosis, Phil Jones has finally resumed full training. The versatile 23-year-old, who was signed for £16m from Blackburn Rovers in 2011, has not yet lived up to the great expectations placed on his shoulders by the man who signed him – Sir Alex Ferguson. Fergie famously said that Jones ‘will be one of the greatest players we’ve ever had’, but as yet, it’s still not clear where his best position is. If he can put his various injuries behind him and form a solid central-defensive partnership with the ever-improving Chris Smalling, his United future will not be in question. On the other hand, more injuries and another season of poor form like last year might lead van Gaal to think he’ll never become the success-story Ferguson was so adamant he would. Jones signed a new contract in the summer which ties him to the Old Trafford outfit until 2019. At one point this would have been cause for much celebration but currently there is the sense that the England international has much work to do.
3) They’re back in the Champions League
After finishing seventh under David Moyes in 2014, the closest United’s players came to Champions League action last year was watching it at home on TV. As a result, the club played ten fewer fixtures overall than they did the previous season. In modern football playing an extra ten matches takes a massive toll on the body. Now that they’re back among Europe’s elite, you can guarantee that their more injury-prone players will suffer pulled muscles in the latter stages of the season. Therefore Van Gaal will be playing with fire should he not choose to consider defensive reinforcements in the January transfer window. The accusation that United’s squad is ‘top-heavy’ is not without truth. Although they also seem to also lack striking options despite huge outlays this summer, they have stockpiled a massive amount of midfielders. The lack of mobility in the ageing central midfield duo of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger means their defence will come under more scrutiny than ever.